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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Deserts, Mining Towns, Joshua Tree, Route 66, Halaupai Nation


Wednesday October 1, 2014 Quality Inn Room 159  Kingman, Arizona

Yesterday began our fifth week on the road and we have covered over 6.000 miles—obviously, not all in a straight line cross the country and certainly not in a straight line down the West coast.  It must be noted that much of the California, Nevada, Arizona Southwest is desert.  It is amazing, however, that that general term hides the fact that the topography is quite diverse and as a result, the vegetation is as well. Sometimes looking at the pictures it appears to be monotonous and boring but nothing could be farther from the truth. Add to its appearance the history of the area and one cannot help but think of the people who came before—the pioneers, the miners and even the people who crossed this area in the earliest days of the automobile. My Dad and his family came out here in 1936 or so---thinking about the cars of that time and what travel was like is mind-boggling. Moving back in time, seeing the lack of water available, feeling the heat of the desert and noting the many forms of tricks nature plays makes one truly admire the spirit and character of those early travelers to this very forbidding land. Mirages are such promises of cool water, the shadows cast upon the hills look like dark blue pools of water, too –but the closer you get to these images which seem ever farther away, the more disappointed and disheartened tthose travelers must have been.

Well, these travelers chose to remain in Tonopah for an extra day. The girls at the reception desk both have babies so we got to know Maverick, the 14 mo old boy and a ten month old girl, whose name I didn’t get. I paid all of Septembers bills and balanced all the accounts.  We ate in using some of the larder from fridge and pantry and read and watched TV. The day was very windy and throughout the day there were squalls. We stayed cool and relaxed in our room. It was fun to see the Hotel sign lit across the parking lot from our window and see the stealth bomber headed our way! Do we even use them anymore—I thought they have been considered obsolete. I know they were based in Alamogordo though I don’t remember ever seeing one.

On Sunday, before heading out of town we took a spin around to check out some of the old  buildings etc I had wanted to stay at the Clown Motel—thought it looked cute—but Barb doesn’t like clowns!  Who doesn’t like clowns??? She probably would have had nightmares since each room door bore a clown! We checked out Cisco’s from which  we’d ordered our hamburgers the other night. It was interesting to see the depth of the white soil that covers the area—the cut away surface looked like a white marble wall.

I will have to google the Tonopah-Goldfield Railroad since the bulletin board taken on the run didn’t focus very well. Though there is no mention of Belle Butler’s life prior to marrying Jim, her garb and endowment seems to speak volumes. LOL

Off we went once more through the desert headed toward Vegas. Within a few miles we came to the aforementioned Goldfield. What an interesting town—though many of the oldest buildings are empty the town is not a ghosttown—there are occupants and an active historical society, though I could not seem to find the office. In a web search, I found the pamphlet that describes some of the buildings which I photographed. Each of them has a numbered plaque on it so I will be able to coordinate the pictures with the history of the subject. Both Tonopah and Goldfield also bring to mind the fact that ” thar’s gold and other things in them thar hills”  and quite a bit of money in minerals and metals has been taken out of them. When the mines closed and the miners moved on, they left their burros behind.  They now run wild in the West and right outside Goldfield we began to see many of them. They are beautiful—there was one shiny black one who was truly elegant.

And being Nevada where prostitution is legal there were several bordellos along the desert road—Angel’s Ladies and later Nude Girls at Bikini’s. As you can see these desert oases are in the middle of nowhere and ,at least early in the day ,are quite deserted. 

There are also anomalies in the desert such as a huge dune—we traveled out the dirt road over 3 miles and had still not even gotten out as far as the dune, never mind having turned toward it and reached it. Considering the desolation of the road, the heat and the dirt road, I urged Barb to return to the highway. She said she would have gone on, however, I would rather be cautious in an unfamiliar and unsupportive environment. Cowardly?  I prefer sensibly cautious.

In order to totally avoid Vegas and its insanity we took a road to Death Valley. The National Park has only one visitors’ center so we did not actually go to it, since it was not in the direction we were travelling. Nevertheless, we were most assuredly in Death Valley and at Death Valley Junction we reentered California.

One of the spectacle of the valley was the antics of the dust devils that run across the desert floor, one after the other, gamboling like children in zigzagging paths and then collapsing suddenly, like kids falling to the ground in giggles and dizziness.  So much fun to watch them. The changing formations look like piles of sand and coal when made of volcanic material and at other times like the walls and towers of some ancient Spanish fortress. Then suddenly, there are snow white dunes in the midst of a dry lake—glistening like snow in the shimmery heat waves rising from the ground.

We’d noticed signs turned toward the fields on either side of the road. We figured they get turned to the road when their message is appropriate to conditions. Finally, too curious to wait any longer Barb pulled over, got out and read one—Flooded!  Wouldn’t one be able to see that, if the road were flooded?  Maybe not, maybe it would be mistaken for a mirage! Eventually, we reached Barker, Ca and its huge thermometer. Hot but it could be hotter, obviously!

Here we got on the Interstate and after all the miles and miles in California, there was a inspection barrier, but the workers were walking away from the booths—was about 430 and the cars just streamed right on through.Before long we saw the city of Barstow spread before our feet. The motel there is one of my favs—it is the one Bill and I stayed in last March. Barb and I went and had a drink while waiting for our room to be readied. We put our luggage in the room and then went over to dinner and enjoyed our first Mexican meal of the trip. Then it was Masterpiece ect and a good restful sleep.

One Monday we headed out of Barstow and took the back way to Joshua Tree National Monument. This was the complete reverse route that Bill and I took in March so, other than the fact that I could see things that were behind me on that day, the story isn’t much different that the blog I posted to you guys at that time. I didn’t take many pictures along the way other than in the Park. This time I focused more on close-ups of the plants rather than panoramic shots. Sometimes, of course, the scene was so beautiful, I couldn’t resist. One thing that we did find that Bill and I didn’t know about—the tallest Joshua Tree in the world—40 feet and probably over 100 years old. Both of us gave it a good healthy hug. We also loved the Sandy Blazing Star which was not in bloom in March. One of the shots looks just like a Georgia O’Keefe painting. I loved looking at the various forms the Joshua’s take—they are so individual.

I’m not sure how one little prickly pear got into the cholla forest but the cuddly looking chollas were definitely showing fall changes. One of the dead ones looked like a brown furry animal lying among the standing cacti. We passed through the smoke trees and ocatilla and down the winding road to Interstate 10 and Blythe, Ca and the motel with the dolphin fountain in front. As the sun set behind the palms we ate in—Barb finished her Fajitas from Barstow and I ate carrots, hummus, pineapple and water for dinner.

Yesterday, as we were gassing up in Blythe we saw some of the day’s citrus harvest getting ready to hit the road. We headed across the river and left California behind for good as we entered Arizona. We followed the Colorado through Quartzite and other mining towns til we reached Lake Havasu City—established in 1964—such sprawl. Somewhere in the mess we caught a glimpse of the London Bridge that made such headlines when some guy bought it and transported it to the Arizona desert—nice looking stone bridge of several arches. Don’t know its age but not worth the tourist hoopla to detour to cross it.

Eventually we came to I 40 which we took back toward California to pick up Route 66 from Golden Shores to Kingman by way of Oatman. I traveled this road with Bill on our first trip west. It is horrible—the lanes are very narrow, there are no guard rails to speak of, horrible switchbacks between Oatman and Kingman, shoulders are gone for the most part. When Bill and I came over from Kingman to Golden Shore the drop-offs were on my side—didn’t really matter much—I was terrified this time, too. Why, you may ask ,when I am the navigator, would I choose to take this route. Well, I wanted Barb to see Oatman. When Clark Gable married Carole Lombard they were to honeymoon in Kingman at the Beale Hotel, owned by Andy Devine’s parents. The press got wind of it so the newlyweds “ raced ‘ down to Oatman and spent their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel, where you can rent the honeymoon suite they used. Bill and I didn’t do that AND, like Virginia City, Nevada, I am finished. Oatman shall never see my face again.  BUT, on the plus side, the burros were out in Oatman, which they weren’t the year with Bill. They are corralled and penned up in winter.

By the way, the beginning and end of the Route finds the Sacramento Wash—it flooded and did a job on the road last week or so when Arizona got those horrible rains that kept us in Northern Ca and Nevada a few days.

We arrived in Kingman and headed right for the Dam Bar where we had nice medium rare Ranchman’s cut sirloin, salad, fries and several Dam Red drafts. Mindy waited on us as she does me and Bill.  And then at the motel we wound up missing our shows—we are right on the border of Ca and Az. So the LA channels were running on PST and the Phoenix channels were running on MST except Arizona doesn’t use daylight savings time. We were totally confused.

Right up until this morning when we got on the road at 7:30 when we thought it was 8:30. We had stopped at the big info center in Kingman before going to the Dam Bar and purchased out tickets for the Skywalk and the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. I did NOT buy a Skywalk ticket, only the entrance to the West Rim. The ride up is about 70 miles through more desert country. Lots of Joshua trees as a matter of fact. We came upon two cows on the road, one had been hit by a vehicle and was still alive. It is open range in many parts of the West. I cannot imagine how the vehicle continued but there was no sign of it—the animal was moving slightly and the eye blinked. Who to call?  What to do? It made the start of our day really sad. ( And the carcass was still there hours later when we returned to Kingman)

Got to the Rim – absolutely no one of the employees around to tell one where the shuttles are—finally found it. Barb went out on Skywalk but was disappointed—there is a ledge right under your feet, you cannot look down over the edge, because the plexiglass is up to your nose and the walk was very short. I, on the other hand, would have been terrified, nevertheless—as apparently, one lady out there was. There were four photographers running around photographing each person several times and urging them to make various poses. You can’t take anything out on the Skywalk with you.  Then the dancers who were to be performing continuously in the amphitheatre were nowhere in sight, the native village was a farce. The teepee was machine sewn and held down by rebar anchors. Many of the items in the gift shops were from places such as Peru and Nepal. Helicopters filled the skies. All in all, though these Hualipai’s advertise their Grand Canyon as less commercialized, it is far more expensive, very crowded, you cannot see the Canyon without going on the Skywalk and it is far less colorful than the National Park entrance from Williams. A beautiful ride up, with lots of washouts from those rains, and back but I wouldn’t recommend this experience to anyone.

Got back to motel and Barb took a nap after we tried to figure out our next move. Very demoralizing—the rooms in one motel at Monument Valley are all sold out and very expensive at the other—this without meals and the tour.  The rooms at Canyon de Chelley are also expensive and again without meals and tour. Plus, with the distance involved we have to stay in Tuba City and the Quality Inn there is expensive and as Bill and I know, not very nice.  So Barb is a bit bummed and we still haven’t decided what to do tomorrow. 

At last, the blog is caught up so I shall say goodnight from the Disappointed, Discouraged and Undecided Sisters. Tomorrow is another day and we will have come up with something fun, I have no doubt.  Kathy and Barb


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